Missouri’s attorney general last night raged at the ‘political prosecution’ of the St Louis couple who are facing charges for brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home.
Republican Eric Schmitt said Mark and Patricia McCloskey were the victims of a ‘rogue prosecutor’ who was targeting them for ‘exercising their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment’.
The McCloskeys claim they were defending themselves against a trespassing ‘mob’, but Democratic county prosecutor Kimberly Gardner says the June 28 protests were ‘nonviolent’ and that ‘waving weapons in a threatening manner’ at them was illegal.
Schmitt has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the couple’s behavior is ‘explicitly protected’ by the Constitution and Missouri law.
The McCloskeys claim they were defending themselves against a ‘mob’ during Black Lives Matter protests on June 28, but have been charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon
Missouri’s attorney general Eric Schmitt (pictured) last night raged at the ‘political prosecution’ of Mark and Patricia McCloskey
Speaking to Fox News host Shannon Bream last night, Schmitt said: ‘The truth of the matter is this is nothing more than a political prosecution brought by St Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner.
‘The right to self-defense is deeply rooted in our Constitution, it’s a fundamental right, it actually predates our Constitution.
‘At a time when there are calls to defund the police, at a time with skyrocketing violent crime rates including here in Missouri and in St Louis, we’ve got a prosecutor now targeting individuals now for exercising their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment.
‘Enough is enough. The law is very clear, it’s time as the state’s chief law enforcement officer to step in. We’re entering the case and we’re seeking to have this case dismissed.
‘Not just for the McCloskeys but for every Missourian whose rights are threatened by a rogue prosecutor who seeks to punish people for exercising their fundamental rights for self-defense.’
Asked why the incident had become so ‘divisive’, Schmitt said that ‘my focus is on the law, and the law in Missouri is very clear’.
He cited allegations that protesters were yelling that they were going to kill them, kill their dog, burn their house down’ during the confrontation with the McCloskeys, who are both personal injury lawyers.
‘Under Missouri law, you have a right to defend your castle, your home and the lives of your family. It’s really not a close call here,’ Schmitt said.
‘This is a politically motivated prosecution by a prosecutor who’s not interested in prosecuting violent crime [and] has an abysmal record.
‘The situation is out of control and this prosecutor is spending valuable resources to prosecute people who were exercising a fundamental right.’
Mark McCloskey (pictured on Fox News Monday night) accused St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of siding with ‘criminals,’ after he and his wife were charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon for displaying guns during a racial injustice protest June 28
Footage of the white couple’s row with protesters was widely shared around the world last month amid the global protests after the death of George Floyd.
Mr McCloskey, 63, carried an assault rifle, and his wife, 61, was waving a handgun as protesters marched down a private street towards the mayor’s residence. No shots were fired.
An attorney for the McCloskeys later said that they support the message of Black Lives Matter and did not want to become heroes to those who oppose the cause.
Charges of felony unlawful use of a weapon were announced last night, which could theoretically lead to a four-year prison term although Gardner said she was willing to recommend a ‘diversion program’ instead.
‘It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St Louis,’ she said.
‘The decision to issue charges was made after a thorough investigation with the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
‘I am open to recommending the McCloskeys participate in one of my office’s diversion programs that are designed to reduce unnecessary involvement with the courts. I believe this would serve as a fair resolution to this matter.
‘We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated.’
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who live in the Forest Park area of St. Louis, brandished their firearms at protesters marching past their mansion in their gated community
Mark and Patricia McCloskey (pictured) have claimed the protesters, who were marching in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, were trespassing on private property
The prosecutor’s move was called ‘outrageous’ by Missouri Governor Mike Parson in a tweet he wrote Monday
Appearing on Tucker Carlson Tonight after the announcement, Mr McCloskey said protesters had been ‘trespassing’ but that none of them had been charged.
‘The circuit attorney has apparently decided that her job as a prosecutor isn’t to keep us safe from criminals but to help keep criminals safe from us,’ he said.
A lawyer for the couple, Joel Schwartz, said the decision to charge the couple was ‘disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed’.
Missouri governor Mike Parson, a Republican, told a radio show last week he would likely pardon the McCloskeys if they were charged.
Donald Trump has also defended the couple and Parson says he spoke to the president about the case last week.
Senator Josh Hawley, also a Republican, has urged Attorney General William Barr to undertake a civil rights investigation of Ms Gardner.
However, prosecutor Gardner says Trump, Parson and others were attacking her to distract from ‘their failed approach to the Covid-19 pandemic’ and other issues.
The McCloskeys’ home was initially incidental to the demonstration on June 28.
Several hundred people were marching to the home of Democratic Mayor Lyda Krewson, who had angered activists by reading on Facebook Live the names and addresses of some who had called for defunding police.
A police report said the couple heard a loud commotion and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Street’ signs.
However, one protest leader said the gate was open and that the protesters did not damage it.
Mr McCloskey confronted protesters with a semi-automatic and pointed the weapon at them, according to a statement from police officer Curtis Burgdorf.
The statement said Mrs McCloskey then emerged with a semi-automatic handgun, yelling at protesters to ‘go’ and pointing the gun at them.
Protesters feared ‘being injured due to Patricia McCloskey’s finger being on the trigger, coupled with her excited demeanour’, the statement said.